Latest coronavirus news for May 12, 2020: Live updates

Here’s what we know today about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

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The latest

144 more die in Illinois from COVID-19 as fatalities top 3,600 and state hits record for new cases


Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a press conference in April.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times (file photo)

Another 144 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, raising the state’s death toll to 3,601.

Tuesday also marked a record-high number of new cases — 4,014 — although Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said that positive count came from 29,266 tests results. That’s the most the state has ever received back in a day and could include some results from the weekend.

The state has now seen 83,021 positive cases, as the virus remains in 98 of 102 counties. Illinois has received 471,691 total tests back since the pandemic began, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.

Illinois’ positivity rate based is 18% from May 2 to May 9. That metric is being looked at under a magnifying glass since Pritzker included it as one of several numbers needed under 20% in his regional reopening plan.

Read the full story from reporter Tina Sfondeles.


8:05 p.m. Potbelly considers shutting 100 sandwich shops amid coronavirus pandemic

Potbelly, the Chicago-based chain of sandwich shops, said Tuesday it is considering whether to close 100 locations, or about 23% of its total, as it scrambles to cut costs because of the pandemic.

CEO Alan Johnson discussed the potential closings in his report of the company’s first-quarter earnings. Potbelly said it saw a dramatic downturn in its results once the coronavirus, which has forced closure of restaurant dining rooms, spread widely in the U.S. during March.

Johnson said its same-stores sales for January and February were up from the year before but then took a 68% dive during March. The company quickly furloughed a third of its corporate staff and cut corporate salaries, including those of top executives, by 25%.

Read the full report here.

7:01 p.m. Chinese Americans in Chicago donate 1 million surgical masks to city’s first-responders

A group of Chinese American businessmen has donated 1 million surgical masks to first-responders and others in Chicago, saying Chicagoans did the same thing for China when the coronavirus emerged there at the beginning of the year.

“We are grateful to the frontline responders who are risking their well-being to protect Chicago neighborhoods,” said Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao, who organized the donation with his wife Cherry Chen.

The effort follows months of President Donald Trump blaming China for the pandemic.

On Monday, when a Chinese American reporter asked the president why he sees testing for the coronavirus as a “global competition,” he responded, “Maybe that’s a question you should ask China.” On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Asian Americans are VERY angry at what China has done to our Country, and the World. Chinese Americans are the most angry of all.”

Zhao and more than a dozen other Chinese American businessmen bought the masks and asked the University of Chicago Crime Lab to help distribute them.

Read the full story from Frank Main here.

6:29 p.m. ‘A pretty scary thing:’ Kid illness tied to virus worries NY

Amber Dean had recovered from a mild bout of the coronavirus and her family of five had just ended their home quarantine when her oldest son, 9-year-old Bobby, fell ill.

“At first it was nothing major, it seemed like a tummy bug, like he ate something that didn’t agree with him,” said Dean, who lives with her husband and three young children in the western New York town of Hornell. “But by the next day, he couldn’t keep anything down and his belly hurt so bad he couldn’t sit up.”

At the local hospital emergency room, doctors suspected an appendix infection and sent him home with instructions to see his pediatrician.

It was only later, after Bobby’s condition took an alarming turn for the worse, that doctors realized he was among the small but growing number of children with a mysterious inflammatory syndrome thought to be related to the virus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that New York is now investigating about 100 cases of the syndrome, which affects blood vessels and organs and has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock. Three children in the state have died and Cuomo advised all hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing for children presenting with symptoms.

In New York City, which has reported at least 52 children sick with the syndrome, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday urged parents to call their pediatricians promptly if their children show symptoms including persistent fever, rash, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Read the full report here.

6:08 p.m. Counterfeit masks reaching frontline health workers in US

On a day when COVID-19 cases soared, healthcare supplies were scarce and an anguished doctor warned he was being sent to war without bullets, a cargo plane landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, supposedly loaded with the ammo doctors and nurses were begging for: some of the first N95 medical masks to reach the U.S. in almost six weeks.

Already healthcare workers who lacked the crucial protection had caught COVID-19 after treating patients infected with the highly contagious new coronavirus. That very day an emergency room doctor who earlier texted a friend that he felt unsafe without protective supplies or an N95 mask, died of the infection. It was the first such death reported in the U.S., according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

But the shipment arriving that night in late March wasn’t going to solve the problem. An Associated Press investigation has found those masks were counterfeits — as are millions of medical masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies being used in hospitals across the country, putting lives at risk.

Read the full report here.

4:24 p.m. $2.5M in coronavirus stimulus to Navy Pier Inc., clout-heavy nonprofit run by $500K exec

Navy Pier Inc., the clout-heavy not-for-profit whose president is paid more than $540,000 a year, has received a nearly $2.5 million coronavirus stimulus loan from the federal government toward salaries and other expenses.

Facing what it says are losses of $10 million, Navy Pier Inc. says the loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program will cover expenses and the salaries of 147 employees, some who have been “sidelined” since the pier was shut down in March by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal loan will be used to cover all salaries, including that of Marilyn Kelly Gardner, the Navy Pier Inc. president and chief executive officer whose salary, bonus and other compensation totaled $541,051 in 2018, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Read the full story here.

3:05 p.m. Blue Angels honor fellow ‘frontline warriors’ – with flyover for grateful doctors and nurses


Health care workers at Stroger Hospital wave in front of the hospital’s main entrance as the Navy’s Blue Angels fly over Chicago in their honor.

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times


They jumped, screamed, waved — and some cried.

It was an emotional moment of release for dozens of doctors and nurses who gathered atop a parking garage attached to Rush University Hospital to watch the Blue Angels roar overhead Tuesday — one of dozens of perches health care workers across the city took up to view the famed jets.

“This is for show, but they are our military, they’re our frontline warriors, such as ourselves these days, and just to see those guys think of us and put on that show is very touching and it makes you want to go back in the hospital and work even harder,” said Melissa Carey, a nurse who oversees anesthesia operations that are necessary to intubate —the medical term for inserting a tube into an airway — COVID-19 patients.

The Blue Angels — a group of precision-flying Navy jets that is regularly featured in air shows across the country — performed a flyby in Chicago Tuesday to honor health care and other essential workers.

Read the full story from reporter Mitch Dudek.

2:30 p.m. City requires Grubhub, Uber Eats to disclose delivery fees as restaurants struggle

Chicago food delivery services will be required to come clean about third-party delivery costs under new rules championed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to arm consumers with the information they need to vote with their wallets.

“We just had a delivery at my house last night. And there was very little transparency around where the different charges were gonna fall, and who was gonna be bearing it,” Lightfoot said Tuesday.

Starting Friday, third-party food delivery companies such as Grubhub and Doordash will be required to “disclose to the customer an itemized cost breakdown of each transaction, including the menu price of the food, any sales or other tax, delivery charge and tip, and any commission or service fee paid by the restaurant to the third-party delivery company,” officials said.

Read the full story by Fran Spielman here.

2:10 p.m. Lightfoot exploring more ways to prevent mayor’s office from being infected by coronavirus

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday her top aides are wearing face masks and undergoing daily temperature checks, but she’s exploring additional measures to prevent the coronavirus from infecting the mayor’s office.

The safety of elected officials during the pandemic is front and center now that a valet to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary — whose husband is one of Trump’s closest advisers — have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is working from his Gold Coast mansion after a member of his senior staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The infected staffer worked “down the hall” from the governor and attended daily meetings with Pritzker at the Thompson Center while following safety protocols, including wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and undergoing daily temperature checks, the governor said.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

1:25 p.m. County lab trains front line health care workers to deal with our ‘worst nightmares’

Dr. Michelle Sergel’s job is to imagine “the worst of the worst” — the sort of “things that make you stay up at night.”

Then she tries to devise a plan to fight it, so the rest of us can rest a little easier.

“My job is to figure out what our worst nightmares are and try to figure out how we can deal with them in an organized way so that we are helping with patient outcomes and protecting ourselves,” Sergel said.

Sergel is head of a Cook County Health lab that is giving first responders hands on training to care for COVID-positive patients as well as how to use a potential new ventilator as the county – and the nation – try to work through our current collective nightmare.

The county’s simulation lab is training doctors, nurses, residents, medical students and first responders and others across the county to “be prepared for critically ill COVID-19 patients,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Tuesday.

Read the full story from reporter Rachel Hinton.

12:20 p.m. Lightfoot presides over another eerie graduation ceremony for 88 new firefighter EMTs

Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave a pep talk Tuesday to 88 new Chicago firefighter EMTs joining the city’s war against a virus that has “shined the light on the power and purpose of public service.”

Lightfoot and Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford II presided over another eerie graduation ceremony at Chicago public safety headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., that has become standard fare during the coronavirus pandemic.

Normally, police and fire graduations are joyous occasions with cheering family and friends filling the ballroom at Navy Pier and posing for pictures arm-in-arm with the mayor and commissioner.

The graduation Tuesday was another somber, candidates-only affair. Firefighter EMTs were once again seated at least 6 feet apart, maintaining social distance. They crossed the stage wearing Chicago Fire Department face masks and exchanged elbow bumps, instead of handshakes, with Lightfoot and Ford.

Read the full story from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

7:08 a.m. Blue Angels will fly over Chicago today to honor health care workers

Here’s what you need to know about the precision-flying Navy airplanes that are set to pass over Chicago on Tuesday.

The flyover is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m., although times are subject to change.

The planes will begin on the South Side on a route that takes them over the Southwest and Northwest Sides of the city. The planes will then head as far north as Evanston before returning south along the lakefront.

Chicagoans are being advised to watch from the safety of their homes while quarantining.

The planes will also be flying over Detroit and Indianapolis on Tuesday.

Click here for more details about the planes’ flight paths.

6:54 a.m. Activists call on CHA to provide adequate COVID-19 testing, PPE for seniors

Community activists Monday called on the Chicago Housing Authority to provide adequate COVID-19 testing and more personal protective equipment for residents living in the agency’s senior buildings.

While CHA officials said some equipment has been passed out to curb the spread of the deadly virus, the activists said the agency needs to do more.

Nursing homes and health care facilities across the country have made headlines for coronavirus-related deaths, but not enough attention has been paid to seniors living in public housing, the activists said at a news conference at the CHA’s Patrick Sullivan Senior Apartments, 1633 W. Madison St.

“A lot of our seniors are too old to get out,” Rosemary Coleman, president of the CHA’s local advisory council said, calling for mobile testing units.

“Some can hardly walk. We don’t have cars, we can’t catch buses and we can’t stand in long lines to be tested. So, we need a unit to come out and test us for this virus. Some [residents] are asking to be tested, but they have no other way of [getting to test].”

Read the full report from Noah Johnson here.

6:18 a.m. We won’t reopen teachers contract for Chicago Public Schools to start on time this fall, Lightfoot says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she’s not about to reopen the teachers contract that ended an eleven-day strike last fall to pave the way for the on-time start of Chicago Public Schools this fall.

“That’s not gonna happen. … We’re not gonna reopen the bargaining agreement,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot reiterated her determination to reopen schools “in a way that keeps the entire school community safe” — perhaps using staggered schedules to limit the number of students in classrooms at any given time.

“There’ll be plenty of time for discussion but, first and foremost, we’ll be guided by what the public health data tells us. And hopefully, we’ll have a constructive conversation with CTU leadership,” the mayor said.

Read the full report from Fran Spielman here.

New cases

Analysis & Commentary

8:36 p.m. Can we agree — when COVID-19 vaccines arrive, they need to be free?

Everybody agrees we need a COVID-19 vaccine. Multiple potential vaccines to save us from the coronavirus infections are in development. Can we agree on something else — when vaccines arrive, they need to be free?

Don’t be sidetracked because it was Sen. Bernie Sanders who pressed this point at a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Sanders, the Vermont Independent, made universal health insurance a centerpiece of his Democratic presidential bid.

This is not about Sanders. This is not about overhauling our health coverage system. Don’t get distracted.

A vaccine works if almost everybody gets it. That’s why schools have immunization requirements. You can’t enroll a kid in a Chicago Public School without a polio vaccine.

The Hispanic community in Chicago is particularly hard hit. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., who has been scrambling for solutions, told me, “Access to a future coronavirus vaccine, once it’s developed, must be readily available to all segments of society, including immigrants, regardless of their ability to pay.”

If everybody has insurance, a preventative vaccine would likely be covered. If everybody has extra cash, paying for a vaccine may not be a big deal.

But everybody doesn’t have insurance or cash.

Read the full column from Lynn Sweet here.

5:05 p.m. The false promise of ‘herd immunity’ to beat COVID-19

We’re all eager to get back to our old lives.

This social distancing stuff sure grows old, and our jobs, our kids’ education and our national economy are on the line.

But as Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, stressed at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, reopening the country before the COVID-19 pandemic is better under control could lead to unnecessary “suffering and death” and might even “turn the clock back” on an economic recovery.

Fauci, in his usual cordial way, was sending a not-so-subtle warning of possible disaster to states that are pushing right now — with President Trump’s encouragement — to reopen in major ways.

“My concern is we would start to see little spikes that [turn] into bigger outbreaks,” Fauci warned. “There is a real risk that you would trigger an outbreak that you will not be able to control.”

Read the Sun-Times’ full editorial here.

1 p.m. We hear the cry in nursing homes — ‘Help me!’ — yet we turn away

As a young man, I stumbled out of an elevator onto the “Help me!” floor.

An ancient woman, whose pleadings will haunt me to my death, sat in a hallway in a wheelchair endlessly shouting, “Help me! Help me!” with her arms outstretched.

I ran to the nursing station nearby, where many people were busily working but ignoring the patient in need. “That woman needs help,” I barked.

A nurse, nurse’s assistant, attendant or someone in a uniform whose rank I could not identify slowly turned their head toward me from the paperwork they were working on at the time.

“She does not need help,” this person said very firmly. “That is just what she does.”

Read the full commentary from columnist Phil Kadner.

9:46 a.m. Nurses: Tough, tender pros who love their jobs

Michelle Latona is no hero. She’s a nurse, in the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Latona certainly doesn’t consider herself heroic.

“No, I don’t,” she said. “I wake up every morning and I come to work and do my job.”

A job that demands she tend to the sick and the dying for 12 hours at a stretch. To juggle patients, rooms, medicines, doses, equipment, colleagues, hours, breaks, all the time keeping focused on the central task: making people well again.

Nurses are the tip of the spear. The National Nurses Union reports at least 50 nurses have died in the United States from the coronavirus, and some 10,000 have been sickened by it. The only reason the death toll isn’t higher is because nurses tend to be younger, and fitter. Latona says her main hobby outside the hospital is working out.

In March, her mother was diagnosed with COVID-19. Latona had to care for everyone but the one person she most wanted to care for.

“It was definitely hard to come to work, seeing everything here; trying to focus, trying not to think of my mom,” said Latona. “I want to be present and care for my patient. Especially knowing what my mom is going through.”

Read Neil Steinberg’s full profile here.

7:01 a.m. Pandemic or not, independent candidates deserve chance to get on Illinois ballot

Illinois must get its election deadlines nailed down quickly if the state is to have a smooth voting process this fall, and that means resolving one particular court dispute almost immediately.

On Friday, a lawyer representing the State Board of Elections asked a federal judge to set an earlier deadline for third party candidates to file petitions to get on the Nov. 3 ballot — and to increase the number of signatures those candidates must gather. As an alternative, the lawyer for the state said, the court could leave it to the election board to decide the deadline and necessary number of signatures.

Just two weeks ago, Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, noting that the coronavirus pandemic would make it more difficult to collect signatures, pushed back the deadline for submitting nominating petitions to Aug. 7 from June 22. Pallmeyer also ruled that candidates need to submit only 10% of the normal number of signatures and can include ones made electronically — with a finger or a computer mouse or stylus.

That has caught the attention of election officials across the state, who worry that the later deadline won’t allow enough time for the normal objection process to play out.

There might not be enough time left to print up the ballots, they warn, especially given that many more people are expected to request mail-in ballots.

Read the full Sun-Times’ editorial here.

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